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First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  4,437 ratings  ·  420 reviews
On July 20, 1969, the world stood still to watch thirty-eight-year-old American astronaut Neil A. Armstrong become the first person to step on the surface of another heavenly body. Perhaps no words in human history became better known than those few he uttered at that historic moment. In a penetrating exploration of American hero worship, Hansen addresses the complex legac ...more
Paperback, 769 pages
Published October 3rd 2006 by Simon & Schuster (first published June 27th 2005)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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trivialchemy
Dec 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sciences
What gall we must have to ask a child what he would be when he grows up! Here he is, tearing along in the delirious hallucination of childhood and we would already have him fill out the box, sign on the line, put the cube in the square hole; we would confront him with this terrible hunt for purpose and significance in the material, have him genuflect before the idol of maturity in activity, the sequestration of occupation in industry!

But when I was a kid that question -- of the many on old folks
...more
George Bradford
Feb 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: apollo, america, heroes
It's difficult to believe there has ever been a more accomplished human being who was more modest than Neil Armstrong.

On July 20, 1969, Neil A. Armstrong became the first human to step on the surface of a world beyond our Earth. He was 38 years old.

Armstrong landed on the lunar surface as perhaps the premier aviator of his generation. He'd been flying for 22 years (having earned his pilot's license as a teenager before being old enough to apply for a driver's license). His aviation achievement
...more
Ron
Three hundred pages of story lost among four hundred pages of gossip and trivia. Tells Neil's story in excruciating detail, including multiple tellings of false tales--each of which is detailed then rebutted.

Too bad because Neils' story is a good one, and the portions on what Neil was actually doing were good.

Better than Sominex.
Christopher
James R. Hansen's 'First Man' throws down the gauntlet, striving to be the definitive biography on Neil Armstrong, the first man ever to walk on the moon.

It is impressively researched, but Hansen spends much of the book showing off what he learned. As a result, we have to wade through lots of minutiae. Much of the extraneous data should have been dumped into the appendices instead. To me, it was as dry as a college textbook.

It's a book that's more about Armstrong's career than his personal life,
...more
Alexw
Apr 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Neil Armstrong proofread this bio about him which led to some interesting perspectives and gave real insight to his story. The Life magazine picture about his wife, Janet Armstrong praying during Neil's moon launch was hilariously revealed that she was actually kneeling to hear the radio better !!
While the positives about Neil proofread had its advantages the disadvantage was the author took hero worship of Neil to ridiculous heights and the book should have been named First Man (on the Moon) to
...more
Kivrin
Dec 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
Wow, it was long and pretty slow in places. The chapters on the moon landing were fascinating! I was 5 years old at the time, and while I distinctly remember someone showing me the moon and telling me men were there, I had little other knowledge of the event. There are lots of details on Armstrong's life before becoming an astronaut, and only a few spare chapters on his life after leaving NASA. Interesting read but not exactly an enjoyable one.
Clay Davis
Jan 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A very in depth bio of Neil from childhood to old age.
Brad
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Good, Not Great.

I’ve been a space geek since I was a little kid, and I am an avid reader of biographies, and was thus very excited to see an authorized biography of Mr. Armstrong released several years ago. However, after finally getting a chance to read it, I found the book lackluster at best.

I must give Mr. Hansen credit on his research, as it is unbelievably meticulous and thorough, though often to a fault. I don’t believe that the general reader cares much as to the differing heart rates of
...more
Robert
Mar 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
This has been an amazing audiobook experience, far better than anticipated. For one thing, the author's portrayal of Armstrong is hardly a hagiography, which was a relief. His many virtues were dutifully reported, but I was amazed at how critical the narrative was of certain highly personal episodes and Armstrong's reactions to them, such as the death of his daughter Karen. But what made the experience much more memorable for me was the seamless integration of actual recordings of the historic c ...more
Linda
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Linda by: John Tankersley's update
Comprehensive biography of the first man on the moon. A lot of information told very well.
Daniel Villines
Nov 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
25AUG12: A truly amazing man that has embarked on his final journey through history. Knowing that he was still alive cast a shining light on humanity's potential. Now that he's gone, it's up to humanity to recognize the hope that he has left behind.

---

As a three-year-old son of a typical nuclear family in 1969, I was awoken from my sleep, placed beside our TV, and photographed next to Neil Armstrong stepping on to the moon. Through all these years, Neil Armstrong remained a hero that was codifie
...more
Don Alesi
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I would like to have given this book an extra 1/2 star if possible. At almost 600 pages, I wondered if I could get through the book and not consatntly falll asleep. I was pleasantly surprised. Neil Armstrong was as a very private person. The authorised biography of the man who in my oppion was the Charles Lindbergh of the sixties was not as private as he was just careful with words and who he chose to deal with.
The most interesting thing about the book is that Neil himself will confirm, deny, o
...more
Mattr76
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This outstanding and incredibly detailed book follows the arc of Neil Armstrong’s singular life from his ancestry to his twilight years. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including, of course, NASA materials, newspapers, and magazines, but also interviews with family, friends, and colleagues and Neil himself, Dr Hansen constructs a faithful portrait of the first man to walk on the Moon. As Hansen notes, much of Neil’s life after 1969 was affected by this achievement of “first”, which Neil has ...more
John Kaess
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Get the audio CD's, it has actual audio and video from the missions. This is beyond fantastic. A must listen to for anyone the least bit interested in the astronauts and/or the Apollo missions.
Selena
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Exhaustively researched; exhausting to read.
Sean Blake
Three stars strictly based on the author's research, however First Man is ultimately disappointing due to Hansen's incredibly dry, factual style. Perhaps I'm being too critical after reading American Prometheus, a masterpiece of biographical writing, but this book sadly isn't engaging. While the research on Neil Armstrong's test pilot and NASA career is fascinating, Hansen fails to involve the reader in these fantastic adventures. It's all very matter-of-fact and seems as distant as the stars th ...more
Andrew
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent biography of one of my heroes. Well-written and comprehensive look at not only what he accomplished, but also on the toll his fame took on his life. I learned a lot about a person I thought I already knew. 5 stars.
Rod Van Meter
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm a child of Apollo; it forms some of my earliest memories. In fact, I thought by the time I grew up, it would be too late to contribute to the adventure, that there would be hundreds or thousands of people living in space and it would be routine. Curiously, or perhaps not for the geeky kid I was, my interest was far more in the machines and the science than in the people. I read some articles and books with their bios, but I never went on a real binge of reading astronaut biographies. Time to ...more
Mary Elizabeth Dial
In the interest of honesty, I should probably say that I would never have picked up First Man in a bookstore. If I hadn't been lucky enough to choose an undergrad honors seminar more or less at random and end up in Dr. Hansen's Astronaut as Icon class, I probably would never have thought about NASA for longer than a minute. And now my friends wish I would just shut up about Neil Armstrong already.

Yes, this biography is long and intimidating, but it's also straight-up incredible. Very few authors
...more
Summer
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was ok

I almost gave up on this book. The book is bogged down with the most minor details. Who would think that the moon landing could be boring? I can - when we read over and over again about the various test flights that didn't actually amount to any significant happening except that Neil did a test flight on x date. The author actually goes through a list of Armstrong's ancestors. It felt like reading the bible "and so and so begat so and so who begat so and so.." Seriously? The book was also bogged
...more
Margaret
Nov 02, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Such a big book with so many details about a man’s life, and yet nothing about his feelings, his personality, his beliefs, his relations with children, wives, relatives, friends! I can understand that Armstrong wasn’t willing to expose his inner self. But biography should be something more interesting than a over-detailed but shallow reference to a forty year career with a moment of glory. Very boring unless you are a man of aircraft science or space travels procedures!
Eric Clark
I have read numerous books on NASA during the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo period. This is not a very good one. While Armstrong certainly deserves a biography, this one is poorly written and filled with technical jargon that simply distances the reader from the subject. For a similar period, books such as "Deke" and Michael Collins' "Carrying the Fire" are much better.
P.S. Winn
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author captures not only the man many calla hero, but also delves into the real life story of the man behind the astronaut suit. If you are interested in not only Neil Armstrong, but a look back at history, grab this one.
Coriander
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A truly exceptional man and such a vivid telling of his life and shed some light on what the first man on the moon was like. A beautiful narrative. Would highly recommend! Bring me all the space books!
Alice Foulis
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Would’ve been 5 stars but I knocked one off because I didn’t like the author’s treatment of Aldrin.
Luke
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Choose wisely

I generally write reviews for myself so I can remember with some detail about what I thought about a book but with this review I want to help others choose if this is the book for them. In terms of research and detail as well as the ability to make this detail readable, this book is a fantastic achievement. It also documents technical details about Armstrong's professional career with vast detail. However, the author is not able to get under the skin of Armstrong the man. This is no
...more
Līva
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really need half-star options on Goodreads – this one's 4.5 actually. Lots of terrific, incredible stuff, but Hansen's writing occasionally seemed a bit annoying and he seemed super harsh towards Buzz Aldrin at times. But, other than that - excellent.

This is an exceptionally random thing to get worked about, but I was a bit surprised not to see any mention of Buzz Aldrin* and Michael Collins in the acknowledgments section (at least not in the 2018 edition) – I honestly don't know how much thei
...more
Jeff
Apr 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
What should have been a captivating account of one of the greatest accomplishments of humankind somehow is reduced to a monotonous slog through the endless sources and citations that James R. Hansen fills his 600 page biography of Neil Armstrong with. It's most comparable to a university level research paper where filling a bibliography is more important than crafting a compelling narrative. Unless the reader is an avid student of the history of aeronautics, the vast majority of this read is a c ...more
Liam Kelk
Jun 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Came back to this one after finishing at 25%. Definitely enjoyed it much more the second time around.

Armstrong had much more going on in his mind that met the eye, which this book covers superbly. A must read for those interested in his earlier and later years.
Kirsty
Feb 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was interesting, but a bit dry and overly detailed, especially the pre-astronaut era.
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Goodreads Librari...: ISBN: 147112603X (ISBN13: 9781471126031) 2 24 Feb 07, 2013 02:29PM  

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James R. Hansen is a professor of history at Auburn University in Alabama.His book From the Ground Up won the History Book Award of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1988. For his work, The Wind and Beyond (NASA) - (six-volume series), he was awarded the Eugene Ferguson Prize for Outstanding Reference Work by the Society for the History of Technology in 2005.

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There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
21 likes · 3 comments
“quoted his commencement address at Ohio State University in June 1971: “My enthusiasm for the future of space travel, I think you’ll grant is understandable. To stand on the surface of the Moon and look at the Earth high overhead leaves an impression not easily forgotten. Although our blue planet is very beautiful, it is very remote and apparently very small. You might suspect in such a situation, the observer might dismiss the Earth as relatively unimportant. “However, exactly the opposite conclusion has been reached by each of the individuals who has had the opportunity to share that view. We have all been struck by the similarity to an oasis or island. More importantly, it is the only island that we know is a suitable home for man.” 0 likes
“No member of the human race stepping out onto another heavenly body could possibly have represented the best of humanity more than Neil Armstrong did.” 0 likes
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